It’s a wet and very windy evening as I approach the Tower Ballroom. The jewel in Showzam’s very shiny crown, the 1950s Carnival Ball, is about to start. I wander past a gaggle of wind flattened quiffs finishing off their cigarettes out side and enter the historic Blackpool Tower and the nights delights begin.
The fist thing that hits me as I enter the Tower Ballroom is the vast size of it, it’s still early yet but I wonder of they will be able fill the space with people, this thought is allayed as hundreds pack the space within a very short amount of time. The whole room is jumping by 8:30.
It’s fascinating the mix of people who arrive and almost immediately hit the dance floor – a sprung dance floor that is bouncing like the hemlines of the many 1950s Rah Rah skirts . A mix of genuine baby boomer rock n rollers brush shoulders with the fancy dress pomp of the teddy boys that look a little like lost members of Shawaddiwaddi. It’s all very joyous the ‘real’ rockers getting to do their thing and the rest enjoying the chance to peacock in their ‘just for one night’ costumes. The line dancing and hand jiving hits full swing to an incredible mix of hardly played classics, Johnny Ray for example hasn’t been on a venues playlist for years, it’s a pleasure to hear and great fun to watch. It’s a charming experience but I imagine a few hips will be creaking this morning after a night of dancing (a bad knee counts me out of joining in, so I’m ‘forced’ to sit and enjoy the excellent table service).
It’s not all dancing though, oh not by any means! After the frantic energy of the audience jiving away it’s the turn of the floorshow to put the hours in. What a floorshow it is! Act after act dumbfound and amaze, all hosted by TV’s Amy Lamè. It’s a heady mix of acts drawn from this years Showzam roster and the varied host of circus, dance, magic and the downright odd are fired at us in quick succession.
Highlights among the (literally too many to mention in a review this size) acts include Opener Phillipe, a man so limber and elegant he could have balanced on the head of a pin, jaws drop as he balances on smaller and higher objects till he is towering metres over the audience.
A hoopla hooping lady wanders on to the floor space and desperately tries to pick up pour and drink a well earned glass of wine as her mate adds more and more hoops till she is just a red wine flinging dervish.
High Jinx and the Showzam Dancers blast the audience with magic and energy that left your eyeballs spinning and your brain twisted as to how did they do that as swords trap and transform the assistant from one person to another, I’m still not convinced the magician Michael Jordan isn’t a warlock wizard for real. The ‘Sisters de soliel’ contort and twist around each other and a suspended ring till you can’t tell where one starts and the other begins.
Lost in Translation unleash The Hogwallop family upon us, a slapstick meets mind blowing juggling and balancing skill based turn that left me wanting more (a trip to The Grand Theatre to see the whole show is in order I think). The Sugar Dandies supply a camp glamour as they turn the ballroom back to its original intention and glide around it in a glorious celebration of dance.
No Fit State circus are in attendance and a man is sent tumbling and twirling down a rope towards the floor so fast that I was almost reaching for my phone to call for an ambulance before he deftly draws to a stop centimetres from the ground.
A truly odd sight for a floor show was a clown like artist who like some (even more) demented Rolf Harris splashes paint all over a giant canvas to create a huge painted upside down portrait of Elvis, it’s amazing to watch and really highlights the sheer breadth of this years Showzam’s offerings.
There really was something for everyone, but not all was to my taste as is natural. However skillful and steeped in tradition Millie Dollars Burlesque is, it still resulted in a 98% naked women being leered at by a room full of drunken men. The drag artist ballerina was also a little boorish and crude for my tastes, there is only so much aggressive ‘banter’ one can take before it gets tiring, but that’s just my personal taste which was more than satisfied by the whole carnivalesque and stunning spectacle.
After the show Amy Lamè returns for the bows and hearty cheering for all the acts and Jive music darlings The Jive Aces rush to to the stage for a heartstopping floor filling blaster of a 35 minute set that was zoot suited and as assured as any live music act I’ve ever seen, rousing and entertaining stuff.
The night turns into a dancing and joyful couple of hours until 2am and everyone seemed to leave very happy and in great spirits. Overall it was a huge success and really showcased the sheer amount of effort, planning and genuine enthusiasm that the team behind Showzam has invested in this years festival. With the many negatives that Blackpool has has aimed at it of late, it’s really heartening to see something that has both come out of a desire to not only boost visitors to Blackpool but also to involve and entertain those who live here. Showzam is in its seventh year and if tonight’s ball with its range of acts is anything to go by it’s not going away anywhere soon.
View the full gallery from the night below, images courtesy of altblackpool contributor Jay Clapp. To find out more about Showzam go online to showzam.co.uk, like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter: @Showzam.
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